A look at the big sports stories making headlines today, Dec. 16.
BAD NEWS FOR THE COWBOYS
Cowboys running back and NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray has a broken hand that requires surgery. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones says it is difficult to expect that Murray will be able to play Sunday against Indianapolis.
Murray has 1,687 yards rushing and needs 87 yards to break Emmitt Smith’s franchise record of 1,773 yards. The 10-4 Cowboys need to win both remaining games to ensure the end of a four-year playoff drought. They finish the regular season at Washington after this week’s game against the Colts.
In other NFL news:
BLAZERS BEAT SPURS, RAPTORS KEEP CONFERENCE LEAD
The Portland Trail Blazers have opened their season series with the San Antonio Spurs by knocking off the defending NBA champs.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard each had double-doubles as the Blazers topped the Spurs 108-95. Aldridge scored 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, while Lillard added 23 points, 10 boards and six assists.
Kawhi Leonard had a team-high 21 points for the Spurs, who played without Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter and the injured Tony Parker.
Also in the NBA:
SOURCE SAYS COUGARS CLOSE TO HIRING BUCKEYES ASSISTANT
A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press the University of Houston is negotiating with Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman to be its new head coach.
The 39-year-old Herman has been quarterbacks coach and play-caller for Ohio State teams that have gone 36-3 the past three seasons.
The Cougars fired coach Tony Levine last week.
KENTUCKY AND SOUTH CAROLINA LEAD THE WAY
Kentucky’s Wildcats remain the unanimous choice as No. 1 in The Associated Press Top-25 men’s basketball poll. The 11-0 ‘Cats got all 65 first-place votes for the second straight week.
Duke, Arizona, Louisville and Wisconsin round out the top five, followed by Virginia, Villanova, Gonzaga, Texas and Kansas.
The only poll newcomer is No. 25 Michigan State, ranked again after a one-week absence. Northern Iowa dropped out after a double-overtime loss to VCU.
For the women, South Carolina stays No. 1 in the AP poll for the fourth straight week after a 62-point win in its lone game last week.
The first 14 teams remained unchanged with, second-ranked UConn followed by Texas, Texas A&M and Notre Dame. North Carolina, Stanford, Kentucky, Baylor and Louisville round out the first 10.
PENS TOP EAST, ISLES RIGHT BEHIND
The Pittsburgh Penguins stayed atop the Eastern Conference standings, while helping the New York Islanders move into second place.
Steve Downie scored the game-winning goal on a power play and had an assist as the Penguins beat Tampa Bay 4-2. Marc-Andre Fleury turned back 28 shots to help the Pens improve to 3-0-2 in their last five games.
Bryan Rust and Brian Dumoulin scored their first NHL goals in the Penguins’ 10th straight win over the Lightning.
Pittsburgh leads the East with 44 points, two more than the Isles.
The Islanders slipped ahead of the Lightning and Detroit in the East by turning a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2, shootout victory over New Jersey. Josh Bailey started and ended the Islanders’ comeback, scoring early in the second period and again in the fifth round of the shootout. Matt Martin also tallied for the Isles, who are tied with Anaheim and Chicago for the NHL lead with 21 wins.
Also in the NHL, Buffalo blew a 3-1 lead before posting its fourth straight win, beating Ottawa 5-4 on Matt Moulson’s shootout goal. Brian Flynn tied the game for the Sabres with 3:29 remaining.
REPORT: NEW DEAL FOR HARPER
The Washington Nationals and outfielder Bryce Harper have come to terms on a $7.5 million, two-year contract, thus avoiding a grievance hearing scheduled for this week. A person familiar with the agreement says Harper will receive $2.5 million in 2015 and $5 million in 2016.
The 2012 NL Rookie of the Year had been scheduled to have a $1 million salary in 2015, but the Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance on his behalf over whether he could void the final season of the $9.9 million, five-year contract he signed in 2010.
In other baseball news:
BEASLEY RETIRES FROM COMPETITION
DaMarcus Beasley is retiring from the U.S. national team after 14 years.
The 32-year-old Beasley was the first American to play in four World Cups. He scored 17 goals and made 121 international appearances.